To Hell and Back

Starburst visits the Paramount soundstages of Star Trek: Voyager, to observe filming for Season Six's
The Barge of the Dead

By Judy Sloane

selected from Starburst #254

As I entered Soundstage 16 at Paramount Studios, I was instantly transported into what appeared to be an eerie and foreboding bygone era. Bathed in a red glowing light, a docked barge, with lit lanterns lining both sides of the deck, was gently swaying back and forth as lightning flashed around it – I was soon to discover that I was in Klingon Hell, and this vessel was dubbed ‘The Barge of the Dead’

B'Elanna and fellow Klingons This innovative setting for Star Trek: Voyager was conceived by producers Ron Moore and Brannon Braga during the series’ last hiatus, as the episode’s writer, Bryan Fuller, explains, “Brannon said he was always attracted to Klingon Hell and wanted to do a ship of dishonored Klingons. He then came up with the idea of doing an Orpheus tale on the River Styx.”

The episode spotlights B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) who, following a near death experience, embarks on a journey to Klingon Hell where, as Dawson concludes, “B’Elanna experiences a rite of passage and comes out a different person on the other side.”

Dawson was first approached about doing this episode during the series’ hiatus. “I had dinner with the producers and they told me about certain seeds of this idea and I was completely thrilled about it. I thought it was very unique to explore this kind of subject matter on Star Trek. It has a metaphysical, spiritual aspect to it that we don’t touch upon very often.

"We talked quite a bit about my reaction to B’Elanna’s situation and throughout the rewrites their door was open. I think they really appreciate the fact that we’ve been with these characters for five years and that we really do have an understanding of them, and so there was quite a bit of dialogue that resulted in the finished product. But basically the core of it was established by the writers.”

B'Elanna finds that life is suddenly hellDawson, who will soon direct her first episode for the series, is quick to defend the archaic design of the barge. “A lot of the Klingon tradition is rooted in ancient history. Even the B’talah looks to me like it could have come out of the time of Camelot. So it does recall that era on a certain level, but I think they took it to the next step. Also, because this is a timeless place, it’s something that could have originated at the dawning of Klingon history and it would have no need to change. They took such pains to make this set so extraordinary that to be able to act on it was a thrill.”

All Star Trek images © Paramount. Feature © Visual Imagination 1999. Not for reproduction
Read the full on-set Star Trek: Voyager feature when you get Starburst 254
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